With the college basketball season nearing its most important stretch, its difficult not to feel somewhat disappointed when appraising the progress made by one of the more scrutinized prospects in the sophomore class, West Virginias Devin Ebanks
Starting off the season suspended for his teams first three games for undisclosed reasons (reportedly academic), and then hurting his hand in early December in an unconfirmed fist-fight with teammate Truck Bryant, Ebanks has been very up and down all year long both on and off the court.
This culminated in an extremely underwhelming performance in 2010 thus far, being able to hit double-digit scoring in just 4 of his last 10 games. While his team is nonetheless surging at 18-3 and is currently ranked in the top-10 of the various polls, Ebanks off-court issues and disappearance in Big East play has to be giving NBA decision makers cause for concern when assessing his draft stock for this upcoming spring.
Ebanks numbers have mostly stagnated or regressed slightly when comparing with last season. His scoring production, rebounding, shooting percentages, free throw attempts and turnovers are all pretty much the same, while his assists and free throw attempts are down.
Considering the spike in production most college players see between their freshman and sophomore seasons, and the fact that Ebanks is already older than some members of his class (he was expelled from Bishop Loughlin high school and forced to redo his junior year), this cant be viewed as a positive development. His skinny frame doesn't look much better than it did last year either.
The impression you get from watching Ebanks largely depends on the game in which you catch him, as his energy level and assertiveness seems to fluctuate drastically for reasons that are still unknown.
Weve discussed Ebanks limitations as a half-court player in a fair amount of depth in previous reports, and theres not much new to report on this front. Hes 3/26 on the season from beyond the arc, and has not hit a 3-pointer in over a month, which tells you all you need to know about where he stands as a perimeter shooter at this point in time.
His ball-handling skills remain porous, particularly with his left hand, as he struggles creating his own shot against set defenses, and thus does not get to the free throw line at a great rate.
The incredibly slow pace that West Virginia plays at (they are the 288th fastest paced team
in college basketball according to KenPom.com) doesnt help matters much, as Ebanks is far better off running the floor in the transition where his length and athleticism really allow him to shine. The fact that he remains a willing passer despite the increased expectations that have been put on his shoulders this year is a good sign, and you regularly see him finding teammates for easy baskets with nice passes in the half-court.
Where Ebanks continues to excel is on the offensive glass, as his physical tools and the aggressiveness in which he plays allows him to make a major impact at the collegiate level when hes truly dialed in.
Defensively, Ebanks is effective guarding small forwards thanks to his combination of size and length, even if laterally hes not the quickest player around. He does a good job of contesting shots out on the perimeter, and doesnt have much of an issue with his lack of bulk when being posted up by stronger collegiate big man, due to the toughness he brings to the floor. Ebanks puts a great deal of pride into his work on this end of the floor, and youll regularly see him switching between guards and big men over the course of the game. Thats the type of versatility he has, and this manifests itself in his ability to generate extra possessions for his team in the form of steals, blocks and rebounds.
All in all, this season hasnt gone exactly the way Ebanks may have hoped thus far, even if there is still plenty of time to turn things around. Hell need to do that in order to give his draft stock a boost, but we should keep in mind that he didnt really get going in a major way last season until March rolled around either, which means there may still be hope. NBA teams will want to look at his entire body of work when deciding how he stacks up with some of the numerous other combo forwards in this draft, but a deep and productive NCAA tournament run could benefit him greatly.